GLEN – Residents cheered after learning Borrego Solar withdrew its application to construct an over-600-foot-tall wind turbine on Reynolds Road in Glen.
“I am ecstatic that we are not getting a wind turbine in my backyard and our beautiful viewshed,” Michele Wadsworth said during Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting.
Wadsworth’s home on Severin Road adjoins the proposed project site and would have been the property most heavily impacted by the turbine. After months of sounding off about the project, she thanked the Planning Board for listening to residents and pushing back against the plans.
“I have chills, I am so excited,” Wadsworth said.
Borrego had sought approval to construct a single 4.3-megawatt wind turbine on approximately 5 acres of leased land out of a roughly 191.6 acre parcel at 411 Reynolds Road. The turbine would have stood approximately 640 feet tall when the blades reached their highest point.
The application had been under review since it was submitted in September. The project was met with mounting opposition from area residents concerned about its impact on wildlife and the visual landscape.
Homeowners living closest to the site worried about property values, noise disturbances and “shadow flicker” intermittently blotting out daylight inside their homes from the turning blades. Residents of nearby Lang Drive were relieved by the project’s withdrawal, according to Deborah Calhoun.
“You have no idea how upset we have been on our road,” Calhoun said.
Borrego withdrew its application in a letter submitted to the Planning Board on Monday. The letter asked the town to discontinue all work reviewing the project and to return remaining escrow funds the developer had provided to cover the costs of consultants assisting the town with its review of the project.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Planning Board in reviewing and considering community wind for the area. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have general questions about community wind in the future,” the letter reads.
David Strong, senior project developer for Borrego, said the decision to withdraw the project was due to the Planning Board’s intention of requiring the developer to complete more rigorous and costly assessments than are normally called for.
“The town took steps to initiate a long and complex Environmental Impact Statement process and Borrego felt like now really wasn’t the right time for the town of Glen for a project like this,” Strong said. “In my experience those are typically reserved for much larger projects.”
Completing standardized State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) forms that assess impacts to land, water, air, noise, wildlife, aesthetics, historic features, the character of the community and more is normally sufficient for the type of project proposed in Glen, according to Strong. Those reviews normally only take up to a few months.
The SEQR forms submitted by Borrego made clear the project would have a significant environmental impact automatically triggering the requirement that the project go through the Environmental Impact Statement process, according to Planning Board Secretary Sandra Hemstreet.
The project’s visibility throughout the town without any option of screening the massive structure, the need for developers to secure a “take” permit for birds that would be disturbed from their habit or killed by the turbine and the incongruity of the proposal with the rural town’s comprehensive plan were cited by the board as some of the reasons for a significant finding.
Borrego would have been required to complete more in depth studies related to each impact and any concerns raised by residents. The developer then would have needed to address or mitigate those elements. The Planning Board was reportedly informed by its consulting attorney that the entire process can sometimes take developers up to five years to complete.
Despite the withdrawal of the application, Strong couldn’t say definitively whether Borrego would resubmit the project in the future.
“We think that the benefits to the town of Glen for this kind of project remain very promising and we would expect the town of Glen to look at options to modify their rules to be a little bit more clear as to what they would like to encourage and discourage,” Strong said.
After several tumultuous months reviewing the project, the Planning Board members agreed zoning rules should be updated to regulate wind projects and unanimously approved a motion to submit a letter to the Town Board requesting a 12-month moratorium on applications for turbines be instituted “as soon as possible” until new laws can be put in place.
Planning Board Chair JD Downing would personally like to see utility-scale turbines prohibited altogether. He pointed out the agricultural town is already being “inundated” with solar projects.
“There is no reason to put a wind turbine in the town of Glen,” Downing said. “We don’t need another community energy project, we already have three of them.”
Other board members said there should at least be regulations for turbines that align with the rural town’s comprehensive plan and that set height limits for projects.
The Town Board previously passed and later renewed a moratorium on utility-scale solar projects that remains in effect through August to put regulations in place to protect the town from overdevelopment and direct projects to areas most suitable for that type of development.
The draft zoning update is undergoing legal review and is expected to be scheduled for a public hearing and proposed for adoption by the Town Board shortly.
Officials have had only general discussions about undertaking the same process to define rules for wind projects, according to Councilwoman Susan Whiteman, who attended the Planning Board meeting.
“These are what shape what the town will be, so it’s very important to define the law,” Whiteman said.
Whiteman said she would support enacting a moratorium and tightening rules around wind turbines.
“Having gone through this experience and watched what residents had to say, I do think we need to make it very clear what is acceptable to the town,” Whiteman said. “This really is about representing the residents, that’s the most important thing.”
The Town Board would have to adopt a local law to implement a moratorium on wind projects, which would first be subject to a public hearing.
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